Walking is a terrific and convenient form of exercise, especially as people get older. But is a leisurely stroll as good as a fast clip?
A recent study measuring walking speed and longevity says maybe not, at least when it comes to life expectancy. Ina presentation at the IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics earlier this month in Paris, researchers found that faster walkers lived longer than slower walkers.
People who walked at a gait speed of 1.4m per second or faster were more than twice as likely to be alive after 10 years than those who walked at 0.4m per second or slower. The survival gap between faster and slower walkers widened even more after 15 years. The findings were the results of nine previous studies that included 34,00 men and women whose average age was almost 74. the long-term studies tracked participants for 10 years to more than 20 years.
The authors noted that gait speed was a good predictor of survival. “(Gait speed) may be useful clinically for estimating general life expectancy.”
Studies have shown that a person’s walking speed can mirror the health of many of his body parts. Researchers have noted that because walking is influenced by many vital body parts, a faster gain indicates a body that is functioning well – and is thus likely to live longer. This holds true regardless of gender, ethnicity and health condition, they say.
The conclusion mirrors that of earlier studies such as one done by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh two years ago. They tracked nearly 500 people who were 65 years or older, and found that after nine years, 27 per cent of the fastest walkers had died, compared with 77 per cent of the slowest walkers.
However, researchers have stressed that the findings are not meant to encourage older people to walk faster. Health experts have long advocated walking as good for various parts of the body.
- Associated Press, Washington Post